Steps to Take After a Spouse’s Death

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Thursday February 10th, 2022.

A period of unspeakable sadness follows the death of a spouse, but unfortunately, many legal and financial requirements cannot be postponed.

Taking on a to-do list while grieving is probably the last thing on your mind, so enlisting the assistance and counsel of a trustworthy family member, friend, or attorney to help you sort things out and provide emotional support is a smart option.

You may also want to seek the assistance of your financial, legal, and tax professionals. They can often assist you with many of the responsibilities, allowing you to concentrate on your loss. 

Here are five things that will need to be done shortly after the death of a spouse:

Request Certified Copies of the Death Certificate

Certified copies of your spouse’s death certificate will be required to claim benefits or transfer accounts into your name. Request at least a dozen or more copies from the funeral home. To prove you were married to the deceased, you may also be required to provide verified marriage certificates.

Gather Financial Records

Begin gathering financial documents, such as bank records, bills, credit card statements, tax returns, insurance policies, and any outstanding mortgages or loans, as well as retirement accounts. It could take time if your spouse doesn’t have a well-organized filing system. Remember, you may need to contact the corporations directly and give documentation of your spouse’s death in order to access their accounts.

Change Titles on Accounts

Accounts only in your spouse’s name should be closed, and the account holder’s information should be changed on all joint bank, investment, and credit accounts. You can request the necessary forms from your financial institutions.

Revise Beneficiary Designations

If you inherit a retirement account, such as an IRA, you can choose to roll it over to an IRA in your own name. You will want to speak with an attorney and a tax specialist to determine the best method for receiving your deceased spouse’s retirement account. You should also update beneficiary designations on such accounts.

Discuss Next Steps

A financial advisor can assist you in updating your financial strategy in light of the new situation. You can also talk about short-term adjustments, such as a budget, as well as long-term changes, such as your retirement plan and investment possibilities.

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